It’s estimated that worldwide, over one million people live with at least one form of disability or another. Many have had to adapt to a world not equipped to meet their basic needs, but things are fast changing.
With the introduction of new technology and accessibility initiatives, technology is slowly but surely increasing accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
Individuals living with disabilities greatly benefit from support and accommodation, which help them on the path to a fulfilling life. Let’s explore how technology can make it easier for people with disabilities to live independently, attain higher education, and pursue meaningful careers.
Easier Living Conditions
Routine tasks can sometimes pose an extra obstacle for those living with certain disabilities. Fortunately, technology can mitigate some of those difficulties.
Low-cost smartphone apps can allow those living with hearing impairments to carry out conversations using transcriptions. Likewise, special eyeglasses can translate visual input into audio for those with visual impairments.
Improved user experience design on websites can ease the stress of navigating the internet for the disability community.
Whether websites make the extra effort of adding an image descriptor or simply use a more readable visual hierarchy, small technological changes can make all the difference.
The role of organizations and social centres is not to be ignored, either. By providing communities in which to socialize, meet like-minded people, and build life skills, certain institutions empower individuals with disabilities. In Lagos, one tech hub for persons living with disabilities offers individuals social and personal development opportunities to which locals might not otherwise have access.
With the introduction of online education, virtual schooling options have gradually become more accessible to those unable to journey to and from campus.
Although earlier forays into the world of online schooling had been made, the first serious attempt didn’t occur until 1982 at the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute in La Jolla, California, when the school’s department of Management and Strategic Studies began offering online courses to business executives.
More recently, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led schools worldwide to close, sending over 1.2 billion children into virtual learning mode.
Needless to say, this switch to distance learning is here to stay and has forever changed the education landscape for those living with disabilities.
With increased access to educational opportunities, students from kindergarten through college and beyond have more opportunities to grow in a nurturing environment.
Maybe they can now call into a school catering to those with learning disabilities, or perhaps the flexibility of distance learning allows them to tend to their personal needs without the looming timetable of lessons hanging over their heads.
Technology also enhances the online learning experience for students with disabilities, offering hybrid and in-person schooling models, as well as options for accommodations and alternative learning methods, including Pinterest boards and headphones. Special curricula like ICT training for persons living with disabilities offer continuing education opportunities that allow disadvantaged groups to “enjoy the benefits of the information age.”
According to a report published by the UK Department for Health and Social Care, “ill health that keeps people out of work costs the economy an estimated £100 billion a year, including £7 billion in costs to the National Health Service.” The economic troubles of ill health are felt most acutely by the affected individuals, but they also impact the global economy as a whole.
This is true across national borders. More than 264 million people worldwide are living with depression, which has been designated by the World Health Organization as the leading cause of disability globally.
The introduction of the COVID-19 pandemic has also increased the number of individuals living with disabilities in the world, as long-haul COVID becomes a growing concern.
Remote work opportunities made possible by technology have expanded access to work for individuals with disabilities, allowing them to take charge of their lives while contributing to the international economy.
High-speed Wi-Fi and widespread access to global media have opened up opportunities across the country and world in the form of international jobs.
These jobs are easier to get with the help of language skills and cultural sensitivity, both skills honed by repeated access to foreign cultures. For many, the only way of accessing these international work opportunities is through the internet.
What better employment for persons living with disabilities than positions that positively impact other members of the disability community? Tech innovators who happen to live with a disability will be delighted to hear of initiatives to develop mobile solutions to assist persons with disabilities. After all, no one knows the market better or can properly prioritize the needs of these individuals.
The Future of Accessible Technology
Whether giving back to the local community or opening an international business, the opportunities are limitless for individuals living with disabilities in today’s world.
With the help of technological advances, it’s easier than ever before for them to live independently, provide for themselves financially, and secure an education.
The Internet has revolutionized the world when it comes to accessibility, and as tech continues to advance, we can only hope it will continue to serve as the great equalizer.
About the author
Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. When not writing she is a part time wedding planner or is spending time with her nephews.